FRACK ANYWHERE ZONING DECISION SOON?

judge1Judge Correale Stevens has been approved to take his seat on the PA Supreme Court.  The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination.

The PA Supreme Court is now filled, and previously tied decisions should be soon settled one way or the other.  The political affiliations are now 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

One of the decisions tied up in the courts is that of the Frack Anywhere Zoning provision in Act 13.  Frack Anywhere basically removes the power from local communities to determine where and if fracking would be allowed, and if allowed how it would be controlled.

The Frack Anywhere provision only applies to the natural gas industry and would force communities to a one-size-frack-all zoning as determined by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It empowers the state’s Public Utilities Commission to invalidate zoning codes that might block gas development, and tells the PUC it must act on behalf of “aggrieved” landowners or gas companies.  Act 13 gives gas companies eminent domain power to take property for drilling operations.

RELATED:

 STEVENS AS AN UNKNOWN

With Stevens taking his seat on the PA Supreme Court, guess about how he would rule on the Frack Anywhere Zoning range from voting for it to against it.  Stevens is an unknown factor.  His previous judicial record gives no hints where he stands on natural gas drilling or the rights of communities to determine their own future development.

One troubling indication was pointed out.  In a radio interview, Stevens was asked about his judicial viewpoint.  Stevens stated he stands by the law.

Why is this troubling?  Technically, Frack Anywhere zoning IS the LAW.

Stevens, a Republican, tilts the court’s political balance in favor of Republicans who hold four of the seats.

But Tom Darr, deputy court administrator, said justices all say they check their politics at the door when they are sworn in. He said partisanship concerns involving the court are more a sport for the media and those who don’t like decisions made by the court.

Frack Anywhere Zoning lawsuit decision has been tied at 3-3, with 3 Republican judges voting to uphold the Frack Anywhere Zoning and 3 Democratic Judges voting to strike it down.

Politics checked at the door?  Don’t think so.

Checking politics at the door aside, what about family connections?  Are they also checked at the door?

A DOT

Broderick “Brody” Correale Stevens is the son of Judge Correale Stevens.  Brody Stevens is an attorney and received his license to practice law in 2006.

Brody was an associate partner with Dilworth Paxson LLP.    Former DEP Secretary Michael Krancer was also with Dilworth Paxson before Brody went to work there, so they weren’t there at the same time.

Krancer left Dilworth Paxson in 1992 and joined Blank-Rome.  After resigning as DEP Secretary, Krancer returned to work at Blank-Rome.

Brody is now Senior Counsel at PVR.    PVR is becoming a major player in the Marcellus Shale.  Will this have any influence over which way Judge Stevens will vote?

PVR’s Gassy Reach

PVR is probably better known for the forced eviction of the residents of the Riverdale Mobil Home Park.   PVR formed a joint subsidiary with Aqua America, called AQUA-PVR, bought the park and kick out the residents.  The park was purchased so a water withdrawal station could be built to supply water to the gas industry.

PVR also purchased Chief Gathering, a midstream corporation which was a subsidiary of Chief Oil & Gas.  In addition to gathering lines, there are the related facilities such as compressor stations and glycol dehydration plants.

In 2011, Dallas Township residents successfully prevented Chief Gathering from constructing a compressor station approximately 1,300 feet from the Dallas School District campus.   Chief Gathering subsequently built the compressor station and the Glycol Dehydration station in the nearby Monroe Township in Wyoming County.  Dallas Township is located in Luzerne County.

When PVR bought Chief Gathering they also took possession of these facilities.

Currently, PVR is faced with a lawsuit over the Chapin Glycol Dehydration Station.   Since coming on line about a year ago, the Chapin station has had 3 ‘incidents”.  Residents refer to the Chapin station as “the GREEN MONSTER”.

Keep in mind the Frack Anywhere zoning provision empowers the state’s Public Utilities Commission to invalidate zoning codes that might block gas development, and tells the PUC it must act on behalf of “aggrieved” landowners or gas companies.  Act 13 gives gas companies eminent domain power to take property for drilling operations.

If the Frack Anywhere Zoning provision is held up by the PA Supreme Court – how long before we are all forced to have a gas pad or a “green monster” in our back yards?

© 2013 by Dory Hippauf

 

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